The blue whale in the bathtub weighed 100 tons and wore a grin like the Cheshire cat on steroids. Her smile stretched from wall to wall. Her blowhole scraped the ceiling. Sam never learned how she crammed her tail and most of her body down into the drainpipe, but she sure looked good wearing porcelain like a turtleneck sweater. She was a happy-go-lucky gargantuan beauty, and, for a while, she was Sam’s best friend. Sam never questioned her existence, and she never questioned his. They drank tequila and smoked pot and laughed all night until, overcome with exhaustion, the blue whale slid down the drain, and Sam crawled back to his bedroom and passed out on the floor.
He probably would have slept in his bed had it not been overtaken by the homeless girl. Stupid homeless girl. She grudgingly tolerated his presence, but she tended to kick and scratch in her sleep, so Sam opted for the safety offered by the hard, thread carpet. He reexamined this decision the first time she used his face as a welcome mat. Under the bed proved a more secure location. With a wadded up shirt for a pillow and a jacket blanket, he could sleep as peacefully as a body in a casket until it was time to wake up and start drinking again.
The blue whale worried about the quantity and frequency of Sam’s drinking, but when she urged him to talk about what was bothering him, he always changed the subject. Sometimes, his face would glow with nostalgia. Had he ever told her about the time his brother shot a snake between the eyes with a bow-and-arrow from over thirty feet away? What a miracle shot that was! Charley drew back that nylon string and—twang—pinned that sucker to the dock. The blue whale could tell it was an important moment in Sam’s history even if she wasn’t exactly sure why. She noticed how his voice trailed off and his eyes glazed over as he depicted the wiggling snake at the end of the arrow, and when he relayed how the dead reptile continued to swim in the little red dinghy long after its heart had stopped. When the spell broke, Sam looked up and tried to gauge her reaction. “Isn’t that an amazing story?” he asked. “Charley was always doing stuff like that.” The blue whale just nodded and smiled.
Sam shared all kinds of personal anecdotes. He even confided in the whale after he began showing symptoms of gonorrhea. Stupid homeless girl. She should have worn a sign around her neck to warn people, “Please beware! I’m lost and desperate and diseased,” but the truth was Sam would have taken her home with him anyway. The beer stain on her blouse hadn’t bothered him and neither had her dusty tangled curls, nor the dark patches beneath her sunken eye sockets that seemed almost natural in the light of a neon beer sign. All it took was her coming up to him in that dark, smelly bar and saying, “You’re cute,” and he was ready to follow her home. Since she didn’t have one, they went to his house instead.
Sam was unbalanced and a bit sweaty after he led her up to the roof. He leaned in to kiss her and was shocked when his hand found no bra beneath her shirt. Concerned that they might fall off the roof and get hurt or worse, he led her downstairs to his bedroom where he was amazed that she offered no resistance to his further advances. A bit nauseated during their drunken midnight tumble, he was sick the next the day when he picked up the used condom off the floor and saw only a hole with a rubber ring around it. Panic set in that afternoon when he realized she had no intention of leaving. Unsure how to handle the situation, he fled down the street to play basketball for the next few hours, came home to find her still asleep in his bed.
He finally came right out and asked her how long she planned on staying. His question must have sounded rude because she kicked him in the stomach with a steel-toed-boot and then rolled over and went back to sleep. Sam decided to give her more space.
Later, after he experienced that first fiery, crippling sensation while urinating, he tried to build up his confidence for another confrontation. He imagined the scenario: she would be sitting on the bed adding another layer of powder to her face while he wagged his finger and lectured her on the merits of personal responsibility. In his mind, she denied giving him a venereal disease. He imagined her saying, “You must have caught it from someone else,” and then, he would be forced to tell her that he hadn’t been with anyone else because he was a twenty-year-old virgin. He would have to try and explain his struggles with low self-esteem and intimacy issues, but he worried he would never be able to muster the courage to confront her, and even if he did, he wasn’t sure he wanted to elevate their relationship to such a personal level. Instead, when he found her awake on the bed all he said was, “It hurts when I pee.”
The homeless girl said nothing, and Sam grew accustomed to sleeping under the bed.
The blue whale in the bathtub encouraged Sam to seek medical treatment. She was tired of hearing him scream as he stood above the toilet with one hand flattened against the wall while the other hand gripped his dripping penis. For a week, he ignored her advice and hoped his problem would go away, but when that didn’t work, he relented. Not knowing where else to go, he found his way to the emergency room.
“I think I have the clap,” he whispered to the charge nurse after checking over his shoulder like a nervous shoplifter.
“What was that?” the nurse asked, not bothering to whisper.
“I think I have the clap,” Sam repeated in a hushed tone as he rocked forward in his chair.
“You have a what?” She asked loud enough for nearly everyone in the emergency room to hear.
“I have the clap!” Sam blurted. Behind him, the waiting room erupted in laughter.
The nurse leaned back as if she was in danger of catching the clap herself. She scrawled something on her chart, which Sam read upside down. “Patient thinks he has the clap.”
Eventually, he saw the on-call doctor, who gave Sam a shot, scolded him for taking time away from patients with more serious problems, and then sent him home with a bill for three thousand dollars, which Sam began paying off monthly in five-dollar installments. Two weeks later, he stumbled out of the bathroom in a particularly festive mood, found the homeless girl awake and receptive, had sex with her, and once again contracted gonorrhea. The return trip to the emergency room doubled his monthly payment.
When he told the story to the blue whale in the bathtub, she laughed for six weeks. Every time she looked at him she laughed, and Sam would blush and laugh too because he knew how ridiculous it sounded. He continued to recognize the humor until the liquor kicked in and the joke stopped being funny. Then he got mad. The blue whale could tell he was mad because he turned red and got a crazed look in his eyes, but the madder he got, the more the blue whale laughed, and finally Sam went berserk. He started punching her, working her midsection like a boxer training against a side of beef.
“Stop, that tickles,” the blue whale said.
Unable to locate a harpoon, Sam attacked her with a wet towel. She must have felt the sting because she stopped laughing, darted forward, and sucked him into her mouth like a spaghetti noodle. Sam remained internalized for three days, subsisting on leftover krill rescued from the stomach acid. Finally, a particularly wicked belch landed him back on the bathroom floor in a pool of tequila and vomit. Sufficiently cowed, Sam guzzled sink water and then crawled back to his room where he passed out under his bed for another three days, until the homeless girl woke him up complaining about his smell. When Sam refused to take a bath, she left the house forever.